Working from home with kids
The main reason I decided to work from home 2 days a week, is about 3-feet-tall, 18 months old and calls me “Da-Da”. I’ve seen friends, mainly other Dads, have kids and go back to work full-time 9-5 or even increasing their hours to make up for the new childcare costs or their partner reducing their hours. I’ve thought they must be missing out on so many milestones, special memories and moments, and didn’t want that to happen to me. However, I wanted both, I wanted to continue working full-time but also have some quality time with Sam (that’s my main reason’s name). So, I thought about my new work-life balance ideals and discussed the options open to me around flexible working with my manager at WISE.
I now work remotely Tuesday and Thursday starting at 12pm, this gives me 2 whole mornings a week (not including the weekends) to play, run, jump, paint, cry, bump, poop and everything else that comes with having a little person around until a granny or grandad takes over at 12pm and I start my working day. I love spending time with my son, I might not see every new trick he learns or hear every new word first but I see a lot more than I would have if I had kept to the same hours as before and now I don’t get every nappy! I also feel happier and even more productive at work for it.
Sam’s grandparents love having time with him as well and tend to either take him out for the rest of the day or look after him from my house.
On the days I am working with Sam in the house, I find the following very useful:
- Work from a home office or somewhere away from your child.
They will be bashing and crashing about all over the place and don’t care if you or your work laptop, or meeting is in the way.
- Only get involved if you really must. That goes for nappy’s, tantrums and snack times.
Grandparents (whoever) have probably done it all before and can handle it.
- Make a big cup of tea (something) before you start.
This isn’t just because you are working and don’t have time. It’s because you don’t want to get involved in any of the above, as you dart across the kitchen for a new brew!
Things have changed a little due to the impact of coronavirus. I’m now working from home full-time and Sam’s grandparents are quite rightly following advice and staying at home. This has meant my partner and myself have had to take some annual leave and are looking at ways we can swap and condense our days to make sure we can work and look after Sam. My previous experience around flexible working has given me the confidence to discuss my changing situation with my manager who reassured me and let me know about the new working options WISE is introducing at this time.
I will say, I hope this experience, of more people working from home with their kids and having to be more flexible, shows more Dad’s, Mum’s, and carers what that they might have been missing out on. It’s possible to have both and that work can be flexible. Flexible working makes finding a balance possible.
Sophie George, Principle Mechanical Engineer Worley Parsons
- Day one – With no meetings or banter, this was the most productive work day in some time, mostly due to the fact that nursery was still open and the work load was so high.
- Day two – Daddy was AWOL for his shift with the children, no sick note, nothing. I can only presume he didn’t read the P6 plan for the day. Luckily Peppa Pig has rave reviews on the child-minding agency website so had to settle for her instead.
- Day three – shift started at 5am, Husband scoffed that it sounded like a lie in to him.
- Day four – 500th request for snacks whilst producing Kick Off Meeting Agenda, it’s beginning to feel like being in the office after all.
- Day five – Dress up Friday.
- Day six – A HAZOP, Vendor Document Review, providing 3 meals for children, tag team entertaining them…coffee.
- Day seven – Workplace thermostat wars.
Joking aside, we are just about managing both childcare and working, the lack of commute has given us back 20 hours per week, not to mention 2 hours per week on ironing shirts. After some serious reluctance from all parties, we have set schedules each day and this is helping to have boundaries between work and the kids. They are also adapting and trying to understand why we are in the house but not always available to play. At this stage, it’s actually harder to commit to family time because our laptops and e-mails are always sat there calling us. We also know we are really lucky to have roles that can be completed from home and so will just be keeping those plates spinning and trying not to murder each other.
My friend who is a primary school teacher posted this and I couldn’t put it better myself ‘For those of you with kids at home from today, try not to worry. You are not a school, you cannot possibly teach for 7 hours a day, especially if you’re working from home too. This is not Homeschooling this is an emergency situation and people are trying their best. It’s not up to you to learn the entire national curriculum on a Sunday evening.’
I agree, it’s not a normal homeschooling situation where you could take kids to the park or to a museum or to story time at the library it is completely new to everyone and lowering expectations is probably very sensible for everyone’s anxiety levels.
Things we previously thought were solid and reliable have suddenly disappeared and it will take time for the dust to settle and to find our new ‘normal’. Don’t think we all need to suddenly be excellent at these new roles which have come upon us. Personally, I’m trying to cut myself some slack and, with a toddler around, get comfortable with the house being a bit messy! If it really bothers you, you can always have tidy up time at the end of the day and make that one of the activities the children get involved with.
At WISE many of us are sharing our routines, resources and ideas to entertain children which has been super helpful. I have included ‘free play’ as part of our daily routine to ease the pressure and it’s been great to see the creativity and imagination my son has without me hovering over him whilst giving me some valuable time to work too. Taking a lunch break outside in the garden together has been lovely as has chats and messages from colleagues – we’re all in this together!
Now more than ever I am using time blocking, each ‘block’ is dedicated to accomplishing a specific task, or group of tasks, and only those specific tasks. Instead of keeping an open-ended to-do list of things you’ll get to as you’re able, you start each day with a concrete schedule that lays out what you’ll work on and when; the method also provides visibility to colleagues which is helpful in a client-facing role.
I thought that two years working from home would mean that when the schools closed I’d have a head start on everyone else. In some ways it has been true, but it’s been a whole new world this week. My partner and I both working full time and two young kids mean we’ve divided up days with military precision – that was the plan anyway.
I’ve found mornings have worked very well – a couple of hours work and then we all jump around with Joe Wicks at 9, before some school type work. The afternoon is where it gets a bit more fluid.
Tips from my experience this week:
- If possible, get the kids outside – less bickering and the fresh air always makes everyone feel better
- Work out which work calls need to be quiet and uninterrupted, and which are more informal – we have a daily coffee catch up with my team, and have agreed that babies on knees and kids in the background are all welcome at this.
- Go with your own energy dips and peaks – I’m a morning person, so much more likely to get work done before 9am than after 8pm. This way of working has to be sustainable – don’t waste energy fighting against your preferred way of working
- Keep talking – admit to your colleagues, managers and contacts when you’re feeling tired or stressed or positive, and support each other through this.